As my 20th birthday approaches, I can’t help but feel excited for this new decade of life and its possibilities. I also find I have bittersweet nostalgia for the past decade. I feel confident that I’ve grown into a wise, independent, young woman—though I haven’t always felt that way. Like we all do, I have learned through mistakes. Though I am blessed to have grown from these experiences, part of me wishes I knew at the start of my teen years—and believed—what I know now. The end of my teenage years is approaching, and I want to reflect upon eight life lessons that have led me to where I am.
Friends come and go and that’s OK
Friendships are amazing, and though we might like to think that all of them will last a lifetime, sometimes life gets in the way of that. People change, outgrow each other, and you know what? That’s OK. Life crosses paths with others and merges with them at pivotal times. Some of these paths may diverge, but it is important to remember this: At one point this friendship made an impression on you that contributed to the person you are today.
Keep an open mind
Keeping an open mind allows new opportunities. It also enriches your mind and soul. I find inner peace when I take things as they come. It’s calming, refreshing, and I find myself appreciating life more.
Don’t put up with negativity
Life is a wonderful gift from God, and it is something we should enjoy. We may pride ourselves in being positive, but sometimes external forces find ways to creep negativity into our lives. Why deal with it? Surround yourself with people who support you and build you up, not people who tear you down.
Insecurity is a waste of energy
I’m going to tell you a little secret: No one cares. Well, that may not be completely true, but if my first year of college at Northwestern has taught me anything, it’s that people have more things on their minds to worry about than judging your clothes or whether you wore makeup to class. Now that’s not to say you won’t have ‘haters’ who judge others to mask their own issues. But never mind them. Care about the opinions of those who matter, like you. In the end, confidence is your best asset, and as long as you love yourself, you’re doing it right.
Parents aren’t always right
Parents are not given a manual with a step-by-step plan on how to raise a child. They learn as they go, sometimes making mistakes, sometimes hitting gold. It may sound cliché, but parents don’t always understand the situation, and that leaves them unable to offer good advice. Sometimes the right thing for them isn’t the right thing for you. It’s OK to disagree with your parents; they are people like you who have had to adopt their own personal values, thoughts and ideas. But take it easy on them, because they do what they think is best for you.
You aren’t always right either
You can be wrong too. A lot. You have to realize that though your thoughts and ideas are valid, you have not had the experiences your parents have had. You haven’t lived enough to know everything. No one ever does. Everyone needs a little guidance here and there, so take it.
Don’t bring people down; rise up together
Why be alone at the top? We are so determined to rise above and be successful, that we may bring others down to get there. To this I say, rise up together, support one another and celebrate each other’s victories.
You are the most powerful person in your life
This is something my mother has told me for as long as I can remember, and it rings truer with each passing day. Though you might not be able to control what life throws at you, you can definitely control how you respond to it. Don’t give external forces the power to bring you down.
I know I still have a whole life to live, and I will continue to learn about myself and God’s presence in my life. But, at this point, I think I’m doing all right.
What important life lesson can you share with me?
Victoria Contreras is a-19 year-old sophomore psychology and legal studies major at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. She is currently an intern with Community Development Services at the ELCA. She turns 20 in March 2016.